The Obama administration encountered a small hitch in their plan to prevent gender identification discrimination in schools. A Texas federal district court has ruled in favor of a motion for preliminary injunction to enjoin enforcement of the guidelines filed by various states challenging school guidelines issued by the Departments of Justice and Education pertaining to transgender rights.
Back in May, the Departments issued a letter to schools throughout the country notifying school administrators that discrimination against transgender students violates the Title XI rights of transgender students for equal access in education. Schools were reminded to avoid discriminating against students who use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity and to put other accommodations in place.
The plaintiffs in this case raise two significant arguments. The first is that the legislative intent behind Title IX was concerned with discrimination against girls in the classroom or on sports teams. The states argue that the Obama administration has impermissibly expanded the scope of Title IX to include transgender student rights.
Plaintiffs’ second argument is that the Obama administration did not follow the correct procedure when issuing the guidelines. Whenever the executive branch issues guidelines on an interpretation of a law from Congress, there must be a notice and comment period where the public can comment on the law. The administration skipped this notice and comment period, saying that there was no obligation in this instance. The Texas court disagreed.
At some point, hopefully soon, the Supreme Court will have to weigh in on all of these issues. For now schools should be mindful of students’ gender identification and knowledgeable about the related federal court cases. In Illinois, as in almost half of other states, legislation exists which specifically prohibits gender identity discrimination.